This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Chinese authorities in Tibet have allegedly arrested and tortured five Tibetans, killing one of them, for publicly lighting incense and praying, two Tibetan sources living in exile told RFA.
The five Tibetans, identified as Chugdhar, Ghelo, Tsedo, Bhamo and Kori, lit incense and prayed for the long life of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Sertar county (in Chinese Seda), in China’s northwestern Sichuan province on Aug. 24.
Police arrested them shortly after, although the sources said the religious activities did not violate any law. RFA was unable to identify any charges.
“The arrested Tibetans were appointed by the local Tibetans in their area to lead religious activities,” a Tibetan living in exile, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“But amidst growing religious clampdown by the Chinese government in Serta and Golog, Tibetans are not even allowed to hang prayer flags in front of their own house. They also deny Tibetans from performing Sang-sol (an incense burning ritual), because they say it is harmful to the environment,” the source said.
Chugdhar died in a prison in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where the other four remain in detention, another Tibetan living in exile, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA.
“Chugdhar was 52 years old and he is survived by his parents. Chinese police kept denying that they tortured him to death,” the second source said.
“The police even have offered his family 100,000 yuan [more than U.S. $14,000] and agreed to pay an additional 10,000 yearly if they would just take Chugdhar’s body with them. But it was just a trick played by the Chinese police to make them take the body because his family never received any of the money they were promised,” the second source said.
Chugdhar’s official cause of death is suspicious, the first source said.
“Chugdhar was a healthy person, but he was brutally tortured in prison until he died. His family was summoned by Chinese authorities on Aug. 26, and they informed him that his death was sudden. They told the family to collect his body from the prison,” the first source said.
“When Chugdhar’s father and other family members went to get his body, the Chinese police forced them to sign a document which states the Chinese police have nothing to do with his death,” the first source said.
The other four Tibetans were first detained in a prison in Sertar county for a week and then moved to a prison in Kardze on Aug. 31, according to the first source.
“They are still undergoing trial but their families fear that they will be convicted soon. Their family members are also not allowed to meet them at all,” the first source said. “These Tibetans are innocent because they were only performing religious activities.”
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killings.